Since the launch of Amazon and eBay in 1995, online shopping has grown steadily albeit somewhat slowly in the early stages. As the internet became accessible to more and more people, online activity began to gain momentum. Broader acceptance of the internet and availability of more secure payment options generated momentum for online shopping to accelerate.
Holiday online shopping has grown immensely in popularity. Sales volumes in November and December show quite a distinct surge with a smaller peak around the Easter period. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both had exponential sales revenue growth over the last decade or so.
Then, along came a pandemic. Lockdowns, store closures and social distancing led to a massive move to online shopping. Born of necessity, many people began to shop online for the first time. Holiday online shopping is shared in the windfall, registering an estimated 40% jump in 2020 as compared to 2019.
Now that restrictions have largely been lifted and life returns to normal, most people will return to the stores. The spike in holiday online shopping will, however, not reverse entirely. Many people will continue to shop online, Some, for convenience and others, to avoid mingling with strangers in a bricks-and-mortar shopping environment.
The 2021 Holiday Shopping season is upon us
Having missed out on the holiday season of 2020, we’re all eagerly anticipating the 2021 season. The last 18 months or so have been quite an unsettling experience for most of us. Many of us may have lost track of time as we have led improvised lives.
We’re gradually getting back into the swing of things, and we suddenly wonder where time has gone. 2021 has quietly passed us by and the new holiday season is around the corner. Suddenly, it’s time to think about special occasions, gatherings with family and friends and gifts. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for us.
The most popular trends for holiday online shopping this season?
Holiday online shopping is expected to increase quite significantly again this year. Sales in the US alone are expected to exceed $200 billion for the first time. Digital sales will account for a massive 25% of all holiday retail sales.
Convenience is one of the major drivers for people to shop online. Convenience not only in being able to shop from home but the entire experience. Consumers have become demanding and discerning in their shopping habits. To a large extent, customers call the shots.
Customer expectations that are expected to trend this season include
- Shopping when, where, and how the customer chooses. 24/7 availability is not negotiable. As is optimization for all device formats.
- Buy online; pick up in-store (BOPIS). Customers will do all the product research and place their order online. However, they want to be in control of receiving the item and will, therefore, elect to collect it from the shop.
- Free or cheap shipping that is also fast. High shipping costs or very long delivery lead times are primary causes of abandoned carts. For most retailers shipping comes at an additional cost. This cannot always be built into the item prices for fear of becoming uncompetitive. It’s quite common for smaller retailers to set a minimum purchase level to qualify for free shipping.
- A smooth user experience is critical. Cart abandonment is possibly online retail’s biggest enemy. It is very easy to discard a transaction in mid-stream when there is no one to see and no awkwardness. The customer expects an effortless process from start to finish.
- Buy now, pay later. Customers are increasingly looking for more flexible payment terms, especially for big-ticket items. Online retailers should seriously consider being able to offer payment in instalments or try before you buy terms. Such terms are obviously only available to qualified customers, but this does broaden the potential customer base.
- Payment methods are continually evolving. This is not only limited to data security and processing speed but extends to the range of underlying currencies or commodities. Cryptocurrencies are gaining traction as secure assets that can be transacted without any governmental or institutional oversight.
Is your business ready?
This season’s holiday online shopping is expected to yield somewhat of a boom yet again. Make sure that you’re on that boat – it’s going to be an exciting ride. Here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re ready.
- Provide a pleasant and hassle-free shopping experience.
– Optimize all your site’s pages for speed. Test every page and test them again. Nothing kills a sale like a slow website.
– Review all your pages and update the look to look fresh and appealing and fit the season. The holiday season is a feel-good time. Make your customer feel good.
– Get an update on your ISP uptime and ensure they have contingencies in place. Web traffic balloons at this time of the year and outages may just be a little more frequent.
– Ensure that you have adequate inventory to fulfill orders.
- Make your brand visible. Advertise and run promotions. Don’t ignore the value of social media. This is a fast-growing marketing channel; and it costs nothing. If your budget allows it, paid advertising is still very effective.
- Review your customer service and support capabilities and ensure that you can cope with a potentially sharp increase in queries. Review your FAQ section and update to ensure that all common questions are, indeed, addressed.
How can your brick-and-mortar or e-commerce stand out?
Nobody really knows what to expect this year. In order to capture your slice of that expected substantial holiday online shopping pie, you need to be very creative. Competition is stiff and customers have a lot of choices. By packaging offers a little differently, you may create the spark of interest that ends up in a sale.
- Instead of discounting the price, offer a cash-back incentive.
- Offer guaranteed delivery dates to meet all the major holiday dates.
- Offer extended returns or exchanges.
- Keep your content fresh and up to date to maximize the potential for SEO ranking.
These are just a few of the many ways to stand out in this crowd. Unfortunately, though, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Elly’s software solutions can help you with your sales
While you are gearing up for the 2021 holiday online shopping bonanza, Elly is on hand to give you all the tools you need to optimize your sales process. Elly provides a payment processing platform that offers all the existing payment methods on a single hand-held device. Accept payment in any cryptocurrency and, optionally, receive the equivalent in local funds instantly.